It’s hard to find a draughtsman, painter, sculptor or street artist who hasn’t followed the example of artists from earlier periods. More often than not, works of art have been inspired by other works of art, it’s safe to say. In all its diversity, street art has not only been influenced by many other art movements, but is also itself full of references to art. In most cases these citations are not hidden in the details, rather, they are so conspicuous that entire works of art function in and of themselves as art historic references. Sometimes it concerns a downright copy (see Caravaggio, Jan de Baen and Louise Bourgeois in the photo series below), but most of the time it’s an allusion to a famous master with a striking appearance (Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dalí) or a well-known painting (The Scream, The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper – all three of which have of course been parodied endlessly in pop culture already).
Artist Reuben Dangoor photoshops London grime MCs into old paintings that look typically British. They’re humorous anachronisms that address a serious issue; power relations between people of different backgrounds and classes, now and in the past. Had the artist not chosen celebrities of colour, his paste ups wouldn’t have been half as remarkbale and potent. “I just started to combine a few of the stereotypical views of England and old school Britishness, with these guys - I think they’re flying the flag for the U.K. in a way that’s far more relevant”, Dangoor told Complex UK.
In Brussels, several unsanctioned murals by Bonom have created serious controversy. Not everyone in the Belgian capital welcomes the horrifying nature of some of the depicted scenes; Abraham who is about to offer his son Isaac (the angel who prevents him from doing so isn’t painted on the wall) and, on the side of an apartment block right opposite a heavily used railway line, the blood-soaked body of one of the brothers De Witt, two Dutch statesmen who were lynched and dismembered by an orange mob in 1672. By comparison, the commissioned murals by art collective De Strakke Hand in Utrecht are equally well executed reproductions of 17th century paintings, though they are not in any way contentious.
All of that comes halfway down the page as this photo essay starts off with particular attention to Julien de Casabianca’s Outings Project. In museums all over the world, the Paris-based artist takes high definition photographs of paintings which he subsequently prints on paper (either on a small or on a gigantic scale) and pastes on the streets in arbitrary places. In this way, portrayed persons and biblical scenes are separated from their pompous frames, taken out of secured and preservative museum galleries and exposed to the elements, exhaust fumes and sniffing dogs. Ending up somewhere along the railway track, next to a petrol station, in between waste containers or, as the cases below show, in a windswept port area in Ostend or a deserted parking lot in Stavanger – which monarch, clergyman or dignitary from the Middle Ages would have thought it? Whether or not this would have met their approval, can all too readily be guessed. And yet, not despite but because of the starkly contrasting and unfamiliar surroundings, it’s well possible that their depictions are capable of attracting more prying eyes than they would have ever done hanging on a museum wall.
In many cases, the original – or at least a work of art that I think shows great similarities – has been put next to the work of art found outdoors. Hover the mouse over the images for additional information.